Saw V

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Opened: Friday, Oct. 24 (Lionsgate)

The old motto “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” is quoted in this latest installment of the ridiculously successful franchise and, well, shame on everybody involved in “Saw V.”

Quickly reaching the level of minimal returns that was inevitably reached by such series as “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th” and “Nightmare on Elm Street,” this entry will no doubt scare up the expected Halloween coin. But the creators need to do some serious rejigging in order to keep this bloody golden goose alive.

Considering that he died a couple of sequels ago, it’s perhaps not surprising that the evil genius Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is less of a presence this time around. But not only does the character have a lack of significant screen time, his brief appearances don’t even provide the frissons of shuddering pleasure that they once did.

The creatives behind the franchise clearly have taken pride in their stylistic consistency throughout the series, but here they even fail to deliver enough of the cleverly gruesome Rube Goldberg torture devices that are its raison d’etre. Only one early sequence, in which a character gives himself a makeshift tracheotomy in order to avoid death by drowning, induced the desired reaction from the clearly bored opening-day audience.

Attempting to make up for Jigsaw’s absence, the film revolves around two of the detectives involved in his case: Detective Hoffman and FBI Agent Strahm (Costas Mandylor and Scott Patterson, apparently vying for who can give the most wooden performance). As the latter continues his investigation, he soon figures out that Hoffman is carrying on Jigsaw’s legacy to further his own ends, with a series of flashbacks depicting his perverse training.

Unfortunately, both of these characters are tediously one-dimensional, as are the latest group of victims who go through the now-predictable paces of attempting to extricate themselves from elaborately lethal booby traps. (That one of them is played by Julie Benz, so fine in “Dexter” but wasted here, adds insult to injury).

At one point, Jigsaw chides his apprentice, complaining that a blade he used in a deadly pendulum is inferior. It’s all too easy to identify with his consternation while watching this by-the-numbers retread.

Production: Twisted Pictures.
Cast: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson, Betsy Russell, Julie Benz, Carlo Rota, Mike Butters, Meagan Good.
Director: David Hackl.
Screenwriters: Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan. Executive producers: Daniel Jason Heffner, James Wan, Leigh Whannell, Stacey Testro, Peter Block, Jason Constantine.
Producers: Greg Hoffman, Oren Koules, Mark Burg. Director of photography: David A. Armstrong.
Production designer: Tony Ianni.
Music: Charlie Clouser.
Costume designer: Alex Kavanagh.
Editor: Kevin Greutert.
Rated R, 92 minutes.

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